How To Love Yourself While Living With Depression & Anxiety

How To Love Yourself While Living With Depression & Anxiety

Accept the love that YOU deserve.
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I will never forget the day that my doctor diagnosed me with depression and anxiety. I felt both a sense of relief, for finally knowing what was causing me to feel like a person who barely existed anymore, and a sense of both dread and embarrassment. When I looked at myself in the mirror I did not see your "textbook" depressed female; I saw a 22-year-old who worked multiple jobs, went to school and had a fairly active social life. How was I depressed? But as my doctor continued to ask me questions about how certain scenarios made me feel, or how I reacted to various things I began to understand what so many people still don't... there is no mold for a person who suffers from depression and anxiety and they affect everybody in very different ways. This has been one of the hardest lessons for me to learn, to not compare myself to how others react to and handle their mental illness. What has helped me with this disease has been to identify five different ways that I can work towards bettering and loving myself while living with both depression and anxiety.

1. Have a Support System

When you suffer from mental illness, many days you just want to be alone, push people away and do your own thing. But this can actually do more harm than good because as you spend more and more time alone, the easier it is to become overwhelmed by all the negativity and fear running through your mind. It is important to have people you can turn to when you feel down, or even better have that person who knows you need them before you even have to ask. I could not make it through my anxiety attacks without my sweet husband. He is my rock when it comes to dealing with my mental health. Panic attacks for me are ugly. Hyperventilating on the kitchen floor, trying to pull my hair out, ugly. Many people would shy away from this scene, but my husband embraces it as part of who I am, and then he literally embraces me. He reminds me of my worth and my strength. He comforts me in my weakness. And he reminds me that I've made it through this before and I'll do it again. I could not get through these attacks without him and my handful of other close friends who keep me going at my worst. So even if you want to push them away; use your support system. You need them.

2. Do The Things You Enjoy

This is our life right? So why do we let others choose what can and cannot make us happy? We already spend so much time trying to please others, so why not let ourselves have some joy in the things that we love. When I am feeling extra anxious or down, I love getting my sketchpad out and doodling. I am not the best artist, my "work" would never be of any worth to anyone else, but to me, it shows improvement. It shows that instead of curling up in bed and crying, I made myself do something. It is so helpful to have a psychical reminder of success when it comes to dealing with mental illness. Something you can look at and say "I did that!" So if you like to paint, draw, craft, cook, bake or make balloon animals, do it! Allow yourself that joy.

3. Be Active

Any doctor will tell you that exercise is crucial to staying healthy, even more so for someone who deals with mental health. Endorphin's make you happy, right? We need more happy feelings in our brains right? It is so good to be active. But for someone like myself who deals with anxiety, thinking about going to the gym is enough to send me straight to bed with the covers pulled over my head. I am working so hard to be comfortable with my body but some days the gym is not part of the plan because I literally cannot go inside. I'm not even exaggerating here. I have gotten ready, got in my car and driven to the gym and then sat in said car and cried because I was so anxious about going inside.

It sounds so pathetic, right? Sitting in my car, crying before going to the gym of all places. But for me, it is a reality. A not very fun reality. But instead of letting that get to me and keep from getting the exercise that I needed, I have learned to be creative in the ways I get my physical activity in. If you put the effort in, you can find so many ways to keep yourself healthy. A big one for me is to take in all the beauty that Utah has to offer. Since moving here, my husband and I have spent so much time outside exploring and hiking, and because it is so much fun, I do not even realize that I am working out! I also try to find a way to at least stretch every day. I often get that stretching in at work, where I teach Pre-K. My students love "workout" time and it’s a huge mood booster for myself to see them having so much fun and I'm able to get my blood pumping too. I am not perfect about working out and always eating the right way, but I do notice a huge change in my mood and outlook when I push myself to be active. Working out and being active will help improve your mental health in so many ways, you just have to find a way that makes it fun for you!

4. Don't expect perfection.

This is the hardest point for me personally. I am literally working on this every single day. And I will probably be working on it for the rest of my life. Depression and anxiety can be worsened when we constantly compare ourselves to those around us, the images we see on television and the internet and, the worst of all, old versions of our self. Comparing myself now to who I was "pre-depression" is a guaranteed way to make me feel bad about myself. I look at pictures and recall activities that I was participating in then and I realize that I am not doing any of those things now because some days it is hard to leave the house to get groceries. Do not do this to yourself. It just simply is not fair. We are changing every day. I am not supposed to be the same person that I was 5 years ago. If I was, then I would not be progressing the way that I am supposed to. I might have gained more weight than I planned on because of health issues, and I might not have as many "friends" as I did when I was 18, but I have had experiences that have made me an overall stronger person. Focusing on the "whole picture" is very important. The anxiety makes it easy to break down every minute detail about your past and present self, but those small details are not what matters. What matters is taking the experiences and challenges you are given and using them to become the best version of yourself. To quote Hannah Montana, "Nobody's perfect! I gotta work it! Again and again 'til I get it right..." Expecting perfection is a dangerous thing. Instead, strive to live each day the best that you can, know your limits and your goals and forget what the world thinks. Every day that we get up and push on, is a day that I count as a success!
I hope that if you are reading this and you are someone that struggles with depression and anxiety or any form of mental illness, that you know that it is possible to love yourself while living with this disease. We are so much more than our limitations. But we have to make the conscious choice to love ourselves; the choice to include others in our lives, the choice to follow your passion, the choice to be active and the choice to not allow perfection to be your goal. The path to not just existing starts with a choice to love yourself. And speaking from personal experience, that choice is the best one you can make.

Cover Image Credit: whitepaperbooks.com

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100 Ways To Practice Self-Care In Your Everyday Life, In 20 Minutes Or Less

Simple ways to start taking care of yourself.

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Life is overwhelming and distracting so it's easy to forget about yourself sometimes, but practicing small self-care acts is easy. Making time for yourself every day isn't selfish and is really good for your mental health. I think it's important for everyone to spend time doing things that make them happy and more calm, even if you only dedicate 20 minutes each day. Putting yourself first can lead to growth so many other aspects of your life.

Obviously, each person is allowed to practice self-care in their own unique way, but here are some ideas to get you started!

1. Do something new. 

2. Make a list of things you need to get done that week. 

3. Drink some hot tea. 

4. Go for a walk on a scenic trail.

5. Paint your nails.

6. Have a good laugh.

7. Buy yourself flowers.

8. Light a candle.

9. Do some tidying up.

10. Don't feel bad for saying 'no.'

11. Listen to music.

12. Slow down.

13. Drink a smoothie.

14. Run mindless errands.

15. Write down your goals for the week.

16. Talk to someone about the future.

17. Wake up early and get coffee. 

18. Take care of a plant. 

19. Take a bubble bath. 

20. Give yourself a compliment.

21. Give a stranger a compliment.

22. Watch a movie.

23. Put your phone down.

24. Declutter your personal space.

25. Go to bed early. 

26. Pray or meditate. 

27. Go for a drive. 

28. Make it a habit to stargaze. 

29. Read a book. 

30. Read poems. 

31. Sing loudly. 

32. Make a list of things you're grateful for. 

33. Drink a lot of water. 

34. Put on make-up for no reason.

35. Watch funny videos. 

36. Take a deep breath. 

37. Distance yourself from negativity. 

38. Unfollow people you don't care to follow on social media. 

39. Have a pajama day. 

40. Read an inspirational book. 

41. Call your parents/ loved ones. 

42. Donate old clothing. 

43. Dedicate a day out of the week to not eating meat. 

44. Do a fun craft or DIY project. 

45. Put on a face mask and relax. 

46. Do a small workout. 

47. Take a power nap. 

48. Listen to a podcast. 

49. Open a window. 

50. Open your curtains in the morning to let in natural light. 

51. Make your bed. 

52. Cook dinner instead of eating out. 

53. Play/ cuddle with an animal. 

54. At the end of the day, think of all the positive things that happened.

55. Moisturize. 

56. Buy a comforting blanket. 

57. Give someone a hug. 

58. Create a vision board. 

59. Have some alone time.

60. Enjoy the sun on your skin. 

61. Dance like nobody is watching.

62. Walk in the rain every once in a while. 

63. Drive with the windows down. 

64. Give someone a gift for no reason. 

65. Get a massage. 

66. Do something that gets your adrenaline running. 

67. Spend the day at the library or a book store. 

68. Organize your work space/ binders. 

69. Spend a weekend in. 

70. Recognize hard work and reward yourself. 

71. Sign up for a work out class. 

72. Eat lunch with a friend. 

73. Spend the day helping others. 

74. Get your hair done. 

75. Have a good cry. 

76. Use sticky notes. 

77. Color code your planner. 

78. Print out pictures and hang them up. 

79. Hang motivational quotes on your mirror and read them when you get ready. 

80. Do random acts of kindness. 

81. Buy fuzzy socks. 

82. Redecorate or rearrange furniture. 

83. Be present. 

84. Set a new years resolution. 

85. Make a bucket list. 

86. Stretch in the morning. 

87. Watch an interesting documentary. 

88. Make a music playlist.

89. Watch the sunrise or sunset. 

90. Explore somewhere new.

91. Be slow to respond to negativity. 

92. Have a game night with friends. 

93. Buy concert tickets. 

94. Have a nightly routine before bed. 

95. Eat your favorite dessert. 

96. Do something you've been putting off. 

97. Invest in essential oils. 

98. Manage your finances. 

99. Buy a new outfit. 

100. Make your own gratitude list. 

Try at least one of these every week and see how you feel! I guarantee you will notice a difference in the way you are living your life.

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30 Activities To Add To Your Monthly Self-Care Challenge

It is officially the last month of the year... time to treat yo'self, sister.

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With December here already, it is time to wrap up the old year and bring new habits into the new year. My favorite way to remind myself to take care of my own mental health and body is to keep a monthly challenge each month in my planner. Each day I look forward to seeing what my daily "me-time" task is.

1. Fill out your planner, set days aside for yourself

Day 1 - crush those goals and treat yo'self sister. With it coming to be the end of the semester, it's important to take care of your mind, body, and heart.

2. Take a bubble bath

Day 2 - take a bubble bath or add your favorite bath bomb. Relax and read a great book.

3. Catch up on a show you enjoy

Day 3 - let yourself binge once in a while. Relax, drink your favorite hot cocoa, and bundle up with your favorite Netflix series.

4. Clean out your social media feeds

Day 4 - clear out unneeded people on your social media platforms! That person you liked in 6th grade? Delete. The boy on the football team who thought you were cute? Delete. Your cousin's friend's sister's mom? Yep, delete her too.

5. Clean one single room in your house

Day 5 - It can be overwhelming to tell yourself you have to clean your entire house that you've put off for weeks now. Start with a single room, a single chore, one at a time until you get the job done... you'll feel better once it's over.

6. Make a HAPPY playlist

Day 6 - my personal favorite thing to do when needing a little boost of happiness is to create a happy playlist. Add all of your favorite shower jams to one playlist and start your concert party of one.

7. Make a list of all your favorite things

Day 7 - favorite quotes, favorite songs, favorite recipes, favorite books or bible verses, anything you love... jot them into lists.

8. Write as many positive things about yourself as you can

Day 8 - It's hard to see positives in yourself when society tells you all the things you aren't and should be. Take today to reflect on all that you are, inside and out.

9. Do your laundry, fold it, and put it away! 

Day 9 - The worst chore ever has to be done and you will feel 100 x better after it's done, trust me.

10. Eat something nutritional for your body 

Day 10 - Even though Taco Bell is yummy, your body needs nutrition, especially during this time of the semester. Make an extra effort to eat your fruits and veggies today.

11. Read something that makes you happy 

Day 11 - Read your favorite blog, a magazine, your bible, a great chapter out of your favorite book, read something that sparks your soul.

12. Color in a coloring book 

Day 12 - Bring it back to your childhood and de-stress today by coloring. Whether it be out of a children's coloring book or an adult stress relief book, doodle your heart out.

13. Go get a check-up

Day 13 - this is SO important. As we grow older and stress becomes more prevalent, do NOT forget to schedule a yearly check-up.

14. Make a list of your community 

Day 14 - It's easy to feel alone when you are overwhelmed.. take today to write down all of the individuals who make up your community, you'll be surprised how many you've got.

15. Get outside 

Day 15 - Ride your bike, get our your rollerblades, go for a walk in your nearest park... get outside and give yourself time to relax and reflect.

16. Plan something to look forward to 

Day 16 - a girls' day with your closest girlfriends, a movie night with your momma, a day trip to window shop at your favorite boutique, no matter what you plan... make it something you are going to look forward to.

17. Zumba it out

Day 17 - Today is about reminding yourself to dance through the rain. Zumba is a great workout and relieves so much stress as you are simply dancing your heart out. Step out of your comfort zone and try it, you'll be thankful that you did.

18. Donate your time or your belongings 

Day 18 - In order to move forward, you must give back. Being able to donate your time to help others or donate things that we no longer use is one way to boost happiness instantly. There is nothing better than knowing you are helping others who haven't been as lucky as you.

19.  Wake up 10 minutes earlier

Day 19 - Yep, you read that right. Set your alarm simply 10 minutes earlier and be surprised at what will happen... you'll be thankful that you did.

20. Play a game you enjoy

Day 20 - A family game, a board game, a card game, Wii game, anything that will get your mind off of the real world for just a little while.

21. Make a list of all your accomplishments 

Day 21 - take pride in all that you have done up until this moment, you have worked so hard to get to where you are. Write it all down today, big or small, thank me later sis.

22. Drink plenty of water

Day 22 - WATER, WATER, WATER! Studies show that you are supposed to drink your weight in ounces of water. Drink up!

23. Journal 

Day 23 - there is nothing more therapeutic than journaling about what is going on in your life right now. The good, the bad, the small or big, journal it all out. Make a plan... you got this.

24. Talk to someone about how you feel 

Day 24 - Speak up. Get help. Open up. Tell someone how you are feeling, let them be a light for you. We aren't supposed to tackle this life alone.

25. Catch up with someone 

Day 25 - That girl you sat next to in church a few months ago? Ask her to coffee. The friend you used to see every day in high school? Chick-fil-A sound's pretty good. Your momma? Make time for her today

26. Watch a TedTalk

Day 26 - No better way to inspire yourself than to watch an incredible TedTalk that touches on exactly how you are feeling.

27. Create a budget plan

Day 27 - Groceries, bills, rent, fun money, the shirt you want, Starbucks fund, you name it.. budget it out. This will allow you to have just a little less stress on your shoulders.

28. Tell someone you appreciate them 

Day 28 - This one never goes out of style. The good old fashion "I appreciate all that you do for me", spread it around like confetti. Get creative, make a craft or a DIY gift.

29. Wear something that makes you feel confident 

Day 29 - Pull something out of your closet this morning that makes you feel confident and worthy. Something that makes you feel like you can tackle anything that life throws in your way today.

30. UNPLUG

Day 30 - YES. YES. YES. Today you are going to turn off your push notifications, be in the present, let everyone else live their lives without letting yourself compare yours to theirs, be mindful. You've made it to day 30, what do your next 30 days look like?

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